Beer and Pavement

Tempering Expectations

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Records by Zac on January 24, 2014

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Hopslam arrived here in frigid Middle Missouri and it brought along with it loads of hype and hops. My love for the beer has cooled but not totally gone cold. I have learned to temper my expectations, not lower them. This is a lesson learned from years of buying records and seeing rock shows. See, this blog’s original premise still works.

See, a beer like Hopslam is almost as much about hype as it is anything else. It’s released only once a year in limited quantities. It’s a beer geek’s beer, loaded with hops and booze. Those bright green labels picturing a poor bloke begin crushed by a giant hop calls craft beer consumers like voiceless sirens. (Can that even work?) The ~$20 makes you think that it’s a big deal. Oh, and it is a pretty good beer.

However, the next Hopslam doesn’t ever taste like the first one. This year’s version never tastes as good as last year’s or the one you drank seven years ago. I don’t know if it’s a problem of drinkers building it up too much in their own minds or something more akin to a heroin addiction. It’s probably a little of both. Either way, the hype and misperception leads to bitter disappointment every time.

Still, Hopslam is an excellent beer. I have come to expect a well-crafted beer that hides an incredible amount of booze while introducing my palate to some sweetness and bitterness without fail. What I don’t expect is the same burst of grapefruit or cat piss or whatever aromas the hops might unleash. It seems that big DIPA’s like this are really dependent on a large amount of hops. If one harvest or another is slightly off or just different in one way or another, the effects are magnified. The beer tastes different every year, but it is always well-brewed and worth a try.

I’m good with Hopslam these days, but that wasn’t always the case. Two or three Hopslams ago, the beer didn’t meet my expectations. I wanted that crazy honey-coated grapefruitiness that smelled of a cat lady’s house sweater I tasted just the year or two before. However, as explained above, the beer was different. On top of this disappointment, I really had to go out of my way to spend a lot of money on beer. Here in Middle Missouri, Hopslam lasts tens of minutes, not days or hours. So, if you want some, you better be prepared to stalk the local beer dealer. Then, you’ll pay $20 a sixer. I used to buy at least two, sometime more. If I had to work that hard and spend that much money on a beer, it better meet my expectations.

Hopslam didn’t meet those expectations. So, something had to change. Last year, I didn’t buy any in bottles, only on tap. The 2-3 Hopslams (plus a bottle from a friend) were more than enough. I didn’t overdo it. I don’t blow a wad of cash. It was a good beer among many. I was satisfied, but my exportations were not lowered as much as they were tempered. “Enjoy the Hopslam, not the Hypeslam” was my new mantra and it worked.

2014′s version rolled out this past week and I welcomed it. I wasn’t going to buy a sixer this year. I have a deal with my mom to grab one in Ohio where it sometimes sits on shelfs for weeks or months. Then, coworkers were running out in the middle of the day to see if the grocery nearby had some Hopslam. I joined them and scored a sixer. One’s enough.

I won’t write a beer review now. You should know that this year’s version is good. I’m glad I bought some and look forward to having more on tap or in a few weeks when my mom delivers the sixer she bought for me.

What I wanted to focus on was the idea of tempering expectations. As I mentioned above, tempering expectations is something I do. However, the ability to do such with beer has been a recent development. No, I’ve been tempering expectations for a long time in terms of what I expect to get from a new record or rock show.

I realize that it’s semantics and someone will undoubtedly argue that tempering expectations is the same as lowering them, but this is my blog post and I say it isn’t the same. Tempering expectations considers contexts and past experiences. It keeps me in the moment and more mindful of what I am experiencing. Tempering expectations doesn’t allow those expectations or preconceived ideas to taint reality. Instead, I can enjoy the experience in real time.

Take Stephen Malkmus’ new album Wig Out at Jagbags as an example. I loved, LOVED Mirror Traffic. My expectations were high for Jagbags, but I realized that this was going to be a different record and it needed its own opportunity to win me over. Of course, the album didn’t have to impress me at all. Malkmus has done enough in Pavement and with Jicks to earn my loyalty. Still, I listened with anticipation. To be honest, the first few listens didn’t impress. It took 3-4 concentrated listens for me to appreciate this record, but I did. Is it as good as Traffic? I don’t know. Does it have to be? All I know is that it’s a good record at this moment and I enjoy listening to it.

See? It’s all about tempering those expectations so that we can enjoy what’s right in front of us. Stay in the moment. This year’s Hopslam doesn’t have to be last year’s or the version bottled six years ago.

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4 Responses

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  1. Barleywhiner said, on January 25, 2014 at 8:23 am

    There are so many big, hoppy beers out now that you definitely build up a tolerance towards hop IMO.When I first started getting into craft beer, Anchor’s Liberty Ale and Sierra Nevada Celebration were considered massively hoppy. Now that level of hops is an average IPA.

    • Zac said, on January 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Yeah, isn’t that crazy? I remember pale ales blowing me away with bitterness. Then, I experienced Ruination and the rest was history. The good part about hop fatigue (ooh, idea for another post) is that it forces one to try other things. I’ve balanced hops with maltier options, sours, or other flavors that offer a little variety.

  2. ZB said, on January 29, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Somehow, as much as I enjoyed Mirror Traffic, I end up listening to Wig Out… and enjoying it more. I was terrified because I didn’t (and still don’t) love single that preceded it, so I had the opposite issue of low low hopes. I still think it’s a baffling choice considering the accessibility of several of the other songs, but I guess that’s not how Matador or SM chooses singles. Mirror Traffic played a lot in my apartment for a little while, but the splendor burned out pretty quickly and I never felt much like revisiting more than a few tracks. Wig Out… pops into my brain every couple of days and I find something else too love about it.
    This may have a lot to do with how I listen to things now VS three years ago, or any number of subjective issues Right now I’m taking a semester off and working on or finishing up five different recording projects, so I’ve been gravitating towards listening to well mixed and recorded material, and Schouten did a pretty great job recording the Jicks here. This is not to say that I didn’t love Beck’s production on Mirror Traffic. He’s got a distinct and awesome London style to his production work that I gravitate towards more…
    In any case, tempering expectations can work both ways. I didn’t necessarily do it (as I expected to be a little bit let down and was pleasantly surprised) but sometimes you expect something to be a little bit shitty and you get a nice lesson about how to leave notions like that at the door.

    • Zac said, on January 29, 2014 at 9:03 am

      I agree completely. It’s funny how many times albums, beers, concerts, films, etc. do not meet expectations either way. Tempering expectations allows those expectations not to taint the experience of the moment. I still love Mirror Traffic and revisit often, but I like this new record tons for very different reasons.


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